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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Vale Helen Gurley Brown: Typewriting Trendsetter

Many of the tributes which have flowed in for the late Helen Gurley Brown have contained the line: “She also never had a computer, preferring her trusty typewriter.”
Whether this refers to her entire writing and journalism career I do not know, but whatever length of time it involved is only further reason to salute the trailblazing Ms Gurley Brown.
Some of the tributes have also been illustrated with this photograph, taken by Susan Wood in January 1979, of Ms Gurley Brown at her typewriter in her apartment on Central Park West in New York City.
One agency described Ms Gurley Brown as "the saucy Cosmopolitan editor who delivered thousands of sex tips to single women and more than a few curious men".
She died on Monday, aged 90, at the McKeen Pavilion at the New York–Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia, after a brief hospitalisation.
The Hearst media corporation said, “Widely heralded as a legend, Gurley Brown’s impact on popular culture and society reached around the globe, first with her 1962 bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl, and then for the more than three decades she put her personal stamp on Cosmopolitan.
‘‘Under her reign, Cosmopolitan became the bible of single girls worldwide and remains the magazine of fun, fearless females to this day.’’
Ms Gurley Brown took over the then conservative magazine in 1965 and set about delivering her message of ‘‘Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere’’. By the 1980s the magazine had grown to 300 pages, a third of that expensive advertising.
It now appears in 35 languages across more than 100 countries. Ms Gurley Brown surrendered the editorship of the United States edition in 1997.
She put big-haired, deep-cleavaged beauties photographed by Francesco Scavullo on the magazine’s cover, behind teaser titles such as: ‘‘Nothing fails like sex-cess, facts about our real lovemaking needs.’’
Male centrefolds arrived during the 1970s. Actor Burt Reynolds’ nude pose in 1972 created a sensation, but the centrefolds departed by the ’90s.
Ms Gurley Brown and Cosmo were anathema to feminists, who staged a sit-in at her office. One of them, Kate Millett, said: ‘‘The magazine’s reactionary politics were too much to take, especially the man-hunting part. The entire message seemed to be: ‘Seduce your boss, then marry him’.’’ An early critic was Betty Friedan, who dismissed the magazine as ‘‘immature teenage-level sexual fantasy’’, but later came around and said Ms Gurley Brown, ‘‘in her editorship, has been a rather spirited and gutsy example in the revolution of women’’.
In 2006, Ms Gurley Brown explained the impact of her book Sex and the Single Girl, saying that it had changed the balance in the bedroom. ‘‘Before I wrote my book, the thought was that sex was for men and women only caved in to please men,’’ she said.  ‘‘But I wrote what I knew to be true, that sex is pleasurable for both women and men.’’
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg described Ms Gurley Brown as a ‘‘quintessential New Yorker: never afraid to speak her mind and always full of advice. She pushed boundaries and often broke them, clearing the way for younger women to follow.’’
Helen Gurley was born on February 18, 1922, in Green Forest Arkansas.

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